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Kiawah Lately

The opening of Timbers Kiawah creates a new way to experience a remarkable island.

Timbers Kiawah Ocean Club & Residences Photo courtesy of Timbers Kiawah Ocean Club & Residences

The folks who live or own a second home on Charleston’s Kiawah Island don’t want the island to change, and why would they? Kiawah is idyllic. It’s tastefully developed, as these things go, preserving natural beauty and privacy but also with an abundance of things to do—golf, tennis, bike riding, hiking, kayaking, fishing. Kiawah is also an environmentally sensitive place, which means that there are significant restrictions on new building. So the arrival of a Timbers Kiawah, a new development perched on the beach—and with a meaningfully different ownership model—is noteworthy.

Timbers Kiawah is part of Timbers Resorts, founded by developer David Burden in 1999; this matters because Timbers Kiawah is part of a stable company with a history of excellence in hospitality. The “Timbers Collection” includes resorts in southern and northern California, Vail, Aspen, Tuscany and elsewhere. Burden had been interested in Kiawah for years. “It’s so natural a setting, and a very laid back, comfortable way of life,” he explains. “And the beach there is one of the most magical experiences you can have.”

Timbers Kiawah Ocean Club & Residences

Photo courtesy of Timbers Kiawah Ocean Club & Residences

But finding the right property took until around 2014, and even after David’s son, Chris Burden, purchased the land, it took years to attain the needed regulatory approvals. Timbers Kiawah, which opened in 2019, looks different than most of the island’s development. Though it isn’t flashy, it is modern, and if you saw it in Miami Beach, you’d think it fit in just fine. The property consists mainly of three buildings, each of which contains seven “residences,” including a penthouse in each building. They’re called residences because Timbers Kiawah is not a hotel. Nor is it—gasp!—a timeshare, which Kiawah prohibits because, well, God knows what might happen.

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Instead, Timbers Kiawah offers fractional ownership. It’s not cheap: Starting at $625,000, you can buy a 1/9th share in a three-bedroom residence. Or, for a base of $1.7 million, you can buy a 1/6th share in a penthouse. On the surface, simply buying a house on Kiawah might seem like a better deal, but fractional ownership at Timbers Kiawah has some attractive benefits. Your fractional gets a certain amount of time guaranteed and prioritized, but you can stay in one of the residences any time as long as there’s availability, with no limit. You don’t have to worry about maintenance, insurance or other tedious aspects of homeownership, and these residences are fully (and very nicely) furnished. Owners enjoy the benefits of a concierge, a valet for their cars and security; if you plan ahead, the staff at Kiawah will stock your fridge and chill your wine for you before you arrive.

Timbers Kiawah Ocean Club & Residences

Photo courtesy of Timbers Kiawah Ocean Club & Residences

Timbers Kiawah has an abundance of amenities—a children’s room, a restaurant, a small gym, a big pool, etc.—but David Burden is right: What’s most special about this place is the beach, 10 miles of white sand maybe a couple hundred feet from the residences. (Which, by the way, are designed to withstand hurricane winds and flooding, two phenomena likely to happen with increasing frequency.) It is, simply, astonishing—largely devoid of human interruption, given the advantageous human-to-beach ratio, and seemingly endless. From it, you can see dolphins in the water; above it, an endless array of bird life; on it, the very carefully protected loggerhead sea turtles who come ashore from May through October for their nesting season. (Volunteers on the “Nesting Patrol” work to protect eggs laid in risky locations, as well as helping to usher the newly hatched turtles down to the waterline.)

You’re welcome to stay on property at Kiawah, which is a tranquil and luxurious experience. But really…go to the beach.

For more information, visit timberskiawah.com.

Read more about how Charleston is changing post-COVID, HERE

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